Graduate Student Mentors (GSMs): What Are They?

Resource Title:
Graduate Student Mentors (GSMs): What Are They?

Departments employing graduate student instructors (GSIs) may also employ one or more experienced GSIs to assist the department’s Faculty GSI Training Coordinator in GSI training and mentoring.  That added responsibility creates what is known as a “graduate student mentor” (GSM) position.  The Provost’s GSI Task Force recommended the allocation of one .10 GSI fraction for every 10 GSIs in a department, with each department that employs GSIs having at least one GSM. 

Who should be a GSM?  Good candidates for GSM positions are those who have been successful as GSIs and who will work well with the faculty GSI Coordinator(s), lead faculty members, and a diversity of GSIs.   While all GSM activities require close coordination with a faculty GSI Training Coordinator, responsibilities that involve direct mentoring require specific training to be effective, and those we have marked with an asterisk (*) below.

Graduate Student Mentor (GSM) Responsibilities

Below is a list of some of the ways that GSMs work with departmental GSI training programs.  Some of these responsibilities involve direct mentoring, others facilitate mentoring, still others support GSI training and development in other ways. 

Plan and Prepare Materials Before the Term Begins –
and Evaluate After the Term

  • Assist in designing the overall departmental GSI training program
  • Assist in the facilitation of departmental training
    --Facilitate practice teaching sessions*
    --Facilitate different workshops on topics such as discussion, grading, etc.
  • Develop a handbook for departmental GSIs
  • Create a resource file of materials for GSIs
  • Report on mentoring and training effectiveness at the end of the term

Provide Mentoring During the Term

  • Invite individual GSIs out to coffee during the semester to discuss how they are doing:  their successes, their problems, new ideas they want to get input on before trying
  • Organize opportunities  for all the new GSIs and experienced GSIs to get acquainted
  • Pair new GSIs with an experienced GSI to help them learn how the department operates and get acquainted with others in the department
  • Facilitate weekly discussions with all new GSIs

Provide Instructional Resources During the Term

  • Initiate or coordinate exchange of resources among GSIs, including strategies and content specific resources
  • Assist GSIs in the application of technology resources
  • Provide resources and strategies to GSIs in a specific course

Classroom Observation and Feedback During the Term

  • Observe new GSIs' classes and give them feedback*
  • Facilitate midterm feedback sessions with students in all of the new GSIs' classes and meet individually with GSIs to discuss the results*
  • Pair new GSIs to visit and discuss each other’s classes and then meet in a group to discuss what they had learned
  • Lead practice teaching sessions

The GSM position is not a job classification per se, but a form of GSI appointment.   Graduate Student Mentors (GSMs) receive either a fractional appointment on top of a GSI appointment, or an appointment that wholly consists of responsibilities to support GSIs' instructional development. 

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